Illustration by French Hunter. Social Art: Bible Photo by Christopher Smith/for The Washington Post via Getty Images. Photo of Karen Pence by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images
Welcome to Scam Academy, where you will find stories of schemes and cheating within high schools and colleges in America. If you cheated and want to share how you did it and why, please email Senior Editor Allie Conti: [email protected]
This week we hear about an 18-year-old from the Washington, DC area who tricked his Bible studies class so he could eventually get into a good high school and later a good college – a private university in New York, where he hopes to study advertising. In this case, the cheating took place at a notorious Christian private school that has been criticized for, among other things, not admit LGBTQ students or staff.
About six years ago, I was a student at the private college where Karen Pence teaches in northern Virginia. She was never my teacher, personally, but it’s funny that she teaches art, because there was apparently no creativity in that class. I suspect the administration would describe the students at the school as very religious, but as far as the kids who actually went there, no one really bought what they were selling. People cheated all the time. Everyone I knew was in the mindset that they just wanted to get out of there.
We were required to go to a chapel once a week, and part of the instruction they provided was a Bible lesson. Each term you had to memorize 12 verses in one section, then four times a year you had to recite all 12 verses in a row. The next quarter, you will have to do 24, and the next 36, and so on. In between, you were actually graded on memorizing part of the Bible and rewriting it each week. I finally realized what all the other kids were doing for these quizzes, and I finally started taking advantage of the school rules myself.
That may have changed now, but when I went the school had this weird policy where you weren’t allowed to bring a backpack to class. You left your backpack on a shelf in the hallway and had to haul the books in a big pile and put them under your desk because we didn’t have little lockers or anything. There was this day when I didn’t memorize that part of Romans, and I was looking around for the usual suspects, looking for them to bring me answers. None of them looked at each other, and it was the same kids who were usually the ones asking the others for answers.
I realized they were just writing the verse in big, big letters and putting it on the front, in plain text, of their three-ring binders. Then they put another book on it and then moved the book with their feet during the test so they could copy it. The part that kinda screwed me up is the realization that the test had already started, so it was too late to change anything. But I knew how I could get a 100 next time. And I did, many times.
I never had hundreds when it came time to recite in front of the class, but I got by. The administration realized that we didn’t care and were constantly giving people a second chance. You might also get lucky and find a teacher who would just give you the verses because he felt bad. As far as I know, no one has ever been caught cheating on quizzes.
The high school I went to had a screening process where they considered your college GPA. It wasn’t a religious high school, so I don’t know if my grade in that class would have mattered. But there were definitely a few times where I sat there and thought about how I had to do what I had to do to make sure I got into that school, and ultimately college. I guess that meant cheating on my Bible tests.
Looking back, I don’t see that as necessarily unethical. I probably shouldn’t have cheated, but that was college, too. Focus on 12 year olds to memorize Bible verses? That was the main reason I decided it didn’t matter. I would still consider myself religious, but I felt it was unrealistic to expect me to do something that no public school student in the county would have to do.
The above has been edited and condensed for clarity. Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.
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